The Anatomy of Humbug

How to Think Differently About Advertising

How does advertising work? Does it have to attract conscious attention in order to transmit a ‘Unique Selling Proposition’? Or does it insinuate emotional associations into the subconscious mind? Or is it just about being famous… or maybe something else?

In Paul Feldwick’s radical view, all theories of how advertising works have their uses – and all are dangerous if they are taken too literally as the truth. The Anatomy of Humbug deftly and entertainingly picks apart the historical roots of our common – and often contradictory – beliefs about advertising, in order to create space for a more flexible, creative and effective approach to this fascinating and complex field of human communication.

Drawing on insights ranging from the nineteenth-century showman P.T. Barnum to the twentieth-century communications theorist Paul Watzlawick, as well as influential admen such as Bernbach, Reeves and Ogilvy, Feldwick argues that the advertising industry will only be able to deal with increasingly rapid change in the media landscape if it both understands its past and is able to criticise its most entrenched habits of thought.

Six years on, and after selling several thousand copies, The Anatomy of Humbug is as relevant as ever, and has become a seminal text for anyone working in advertising and publicity.

The Anatomy of Humbug is available as hardback, e-book, and audiobook, read by the author.

  • Praise & Reviews

    If you're think you know how advertising works, think again. This book is fascinating, provocative and inspiring. It's a joy to read.

    Jim Carroll Chairman, BBH London

    The Anatomy of Humbug is an easy and enjoyable read and the message is new, valid and useful. No-one has previously discussed the various “practitioner theories” of advertising so comprehensively. It’s a great story, and I learned a lot.

    Patrick Barwise Emeritus Professor of Management and Marketing, London Business School

    Paul Feldwick examines how we all think advertising works and the history of why we think that way. He, subtly, gently and wisely will make you realise that, actually, you don't really know and have just been getting on with it. There's a lot of useful learning in this little book.

    Russell Davies BETC
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The Anatomy of Humbug